Construction of our Desert Garden is complete! We agreed to name it The Garden of Ordinary Heroes because it is dedicated to our parents. Below are photos of the overall design. My plan for the planting area is to build a raised bed so that it would help the soil around each cactus drain better. Here is the general idea model of how I would sculpt the earth. The overall size of the garden is 40 feet wide by 20 feet deep. The raised areas for planting range from 6" - 12" varying depending on the size of the lava rock used. I tried to spread the rocks out so that no one area would have too many rocks . Smaller pieces of lava rock were lodged in the soil to help support the plants and keep a structure for the plants. The design is a compromise between formal and informal elements. Although I wanted to keep it looking very maintained and orderly, I did try to space things out in a more random and natural way in each smaller areas.
Here's what the finished construction looks like. On the little planting island on the bottom, there is a very small Mama Bear Manzanita (Arctostaphylos) tree. It is native to Santa Monica and is very drought tolerant once established.
In the photo below, you can see the purple leafed plum (krauter versuvius) in the top left corner.
You can see that every cactus is planted on a slightly raised bed from 6" - 8" taller than the ground level for better drainage. In the photo below there are three sticks on fire plants, one golden barrel cactus (Echinocactus grusonii), one fish-hook barrel cactus, a few dwarf blue chalk sticks (senecio serpens), a reddish flapjack (kalanchoe luciae), and some pork and beans (senecio rubrotinctum) to the bottom right.
In the photo below; in the front bottom is an agave shark skin (A. Ruth Bancroft), behind him is an agave paryii truncata. To the left of the Agave paryii, is an agave kissho kan. The white fuzzy columnar cacti in the back are wooly torches (cleistocactus strausii). The little green plant to right of it is an euphorbia resinifera. The purple paddle and ball cactus in the back is a prickly pear cactus called Opuntia Santa-Rita 'Tubac'.
The amazing flowers you see come out of a couple of kinds of Schick Hybrid Echinopsis Cacti. One is called Echinopsis Don Juan which has a magenta colored flower. The other is Echinopsis Sorceress, which has a deep red flower. These cacti are only about 2" in diameter across the body. They are globular in form and very easy to overlook when not in bloom.
The flowers are usually more than twice the size of the cactus.
The Old man of the Andes cactus is on the left of the island from this point of view. On the right is Cereus Peruvianus Monstroso, a cool night flowering cactus. In between them is a mammilaria cactus.
Here's a reverse shot with the old man of the andes on the front right. The textures and contrast of the different sized red lava rocks are very pleasant to the eyes. I used 3/8", 3/4" as a ground cover, and 4"-24" to build the borders and raised planting beds. I probably moved about 2 tons (4,000 lbs.) of rock, including the California Gold crushed rock, Malibu cobblestone, and lava rock around within the two and a half months that it took me to construct the garden. So guys, be prepared to lift if you are going to attempt to build one for yourself. There will be plenty of lifting to do and lots of tanning also.
I hope you enjoy my design. I would like to give thanks to my Aunt and Uncle Yoko Sato, and our friend Michelle Loon as well as Mr. and Mrs. Loon for donating so many of the plants that we used for our garden. This garden is dedicated to my wife and our parents.